chapter is based on 1 Samuel 29; 30;
2 Samuel 1.]
and his men had not taken part in the battle between Saul and the
Philistines, though they had marched with the Philistines to the field of
conflict. As the two armies prepared to join battle the son of Jesse found
himself in a situation of great perplexity. It was expected that he would
fight for the Philistines. Should he in the engagement quit the post
assigned him and retire from the field, he would not only brand himself
with cowardice, but with ingratitude and treachery to Achish, who had
protected him and confided in him. Such an act would cover his name with
infamy, and would expose him to the wrath of enemies more to be feared
than Saul. Yet he could not for a moment consent to fight against Israel.
Should he do this, he would become a traitor to his country--the enemy of
God and of His people. It would forever bar his way to the throne of
Israel; and should Saul be slain in the engagement, his death would be
charged upon David.
caused to feel that he had missed his path. Far better would it have been
for him to find refuge in God's strong fortresses of the mountains than
with the avowed enemies of Jehovah and His people. But the Lord in His
great mercy did not punish this error of His servant by leaving him to
himself in his distress and perplexity; for though David, losing his grasp
on divine power, had faltered and turned aside from the path of strict
integrity, it was still the purpose of his heart to be true to God. While
Satan and his host were busy helping the adversaries of God and of Israel
to plan against a king who had forsaken God, and the angels of the Lord
were working to deliver David from the peril into which he had fallen.
Heavenly messengers moved upon the Philistine princes to protest against
the presence of David and his force with the army in the approaching
these Hebrews here?" cried the Philistine lords, pressing about
Achish. The latter, unwilling to part with so important an ally, answered,
"Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, which
hath been with me these days, or these years, and I have found no fault in
him since he fell unto me unto this day?"
princes angrily persisted in their demand: "Make this fellow return,
that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let
him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary
to us: for wherewith should he reconcile himself unto his master? should
it not be with the heads of these men? Is not this David, of whom they
sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul slew his thousands, and David
his ten thousands?" The slaughter of their famed champion and the
triumph of Israel upon that occasion were still fresh in the memory of the
Philistine lords. They did not believe that David would fight against his
own people; and should he, in the heat of battle, take sides with them, he
could inflict greater harm on the Philistines than would the whole of
was forced to yield, and calling David, said unto him, "Surely as
Jehovah liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming
in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have not found evil in
thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day. Nevertheless the
lords favor thee not. Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou
displease not the lords of the Philistines."
fearing to betray his real feelings, answered, "But what have I done?
and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee
unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the
The reply of
Achish must have sent a thrill of shame and remorse through David's heart,
as he thought how unworthy of a servant of Jehovah were the deceptions to
which he had stooped. "I know that thou art good in my sight, as an
angel of God," said the king: "notwithstanding, the princes of
the Philistines have said, He shall not go up with us to the battle.
Wherefore now rise up early in the morning with thy master's servants that
are come with thee: and as soon as ye be up early in the morning, and have
light, depart." Thus the snare in which David had become entangled
was broken, and he was set free.
days' travel David and his band of six hundred men reached Ziklag, their
Philistine home. But a scene of desolation met their view. The Amalekites,
taking advantage of David's absence, with his force, had avenged
themselves for his incursions into their territory. They had surprised the
city while it was left unguarded, and having sacked and burned it, had
departed, taking all the women and children as captives, with much spoil.
horror and amazement, David and his men for a little time gazed in silence
upon the blackened and smoldering ruins. Then as a sense of their terrible
desolation burst upon them, those battle-scarred warriors "lifted up
their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep."
David was chastened for the lack of faith that had led him to place
himself among the Philistines. He had opportunity to see how much safety
could be found among the foes of God and His people. David's followers
turned upon him as the cause of their calamities. He had provoked the
vengeance of the Amalekites by his attack upon them; yet, too confident of
security in the midst of his enemies, he had left the city unguarded.
Maddened with grief and rage, his soldiers were now ready for any
desperate measures, and they threatened even to stone their leader.
to be cut off from every human support. All that he held dear on earth had
been swept from him. Saul had driven him from his country; the Philistines
had driven him from the camp; the Amalekites had plundered his city; his
wives and children had been made prisoners; and his own familiar friends
had banded against him, and threatened him even with death. In this hour
of utmost extremity David, instead of permitting his mind to dwell upon
these painful circumstances, looked earnestly to God for help. He
"encouraged himself in the Lord." He reviewed his past eventful
life. Wherein had the Lord ever forsaken him? His soul was refreshed in
recalling the many evidences of God's favor. The followers of David, by
their discontent and impatience, made their affliction doubly grievous;
but the man of God, having even greater cause for grief, bore himself with
fortitude. "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm
56:3), was the language of his heart. Though he himself
could not discern
a way out of the difficulty, God could see it, and would teach him what to
Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, "David inquired of the
Lord, saying, If I pursue after this troop, shall I overtake them?"
The answer was, "Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and
shalt without fail recover all." 1 Samuel 30:8, R.V.
words the tumult of grief and passion ceased. David and his soldiers at
once set out in pursuit of their fleeing foe. So rapid was their march,
that upon reaching the brook Besor, which empties near Gaza into the
Mediterranean Sea, two hundred of the band were compelled by exhaustion to
remain behind. But David with the remaining four hundred pressed forward,
they came upon an Egyptian slave apparently about to perish from weariness
and hunger. Upon receiving food and drink, however, he revived, and they
learned that he had been left to die by his cruel master, an Amalekite
belonging to the invading force. He told the story of the raid and
pillage; and then, having exacted a promise that he should not be slain or
delivered to his master, he consented to lead David's company to the camp
of their enemies.
As they came
in sight of the encampment a scene of revelry met their gaze. The
victorious host were holding high festival. "They were spread abroad
upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the
great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and
out of the land of Judah." An immediate attack was ordered, and the
pursuers rushed fiercely upon their prey. The Amalekites were surprised
and thrown into confusion. The battle was continued all that night and the
following day, until nearly the entire host was slain. Only a band of four
hundred men, mounted upon camels, succeeded in making their escape. The
word of the Lord was fulfilled. "David recovered all that the
Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives. And there
was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor
daughters, neither spoil, nor anything that they had taken to them: David
had invaded the territory of the Amalekites, he had put to the sword all
the inhabitants that fell into his hands.
But for the restraining power of
God the Amalekites would have retaliated by destroying the people of
Ziklag. They decided to spare the captives, desiring to heighten the honor
of the triumph by leading home a large number of prisoners, and intending
afterward to sell them as slaves. Thus, unwittingly, they fulfilled God's
purpose, keeping the prisoners unharmed, to be restored to their husbands
powers are under the control of the Infinite One. To the mightiest ruler,
to the most cruel oppressor, He says, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but
no further." Job 38:11. God's power is constantly exercised to
counteract the agencies of evil; He is ever at work among men, not for
their destruction, but for their correction and preservation.
rejoicing the victors took up their homeward march. Upon reaching their
companions who had remained behind, the more selfish and unruly of the
four hundred urged that those who had had no part in the battle should not
share the spoils; that it was enough for them to recover each his wife and
children. But David would permit no such arrangement. "Ye shall not
do so, my brethren," he said, "with that which the Lord hath
given us. . . . As his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his
part be that tarrieth by the stuff; they shall part alike." Thus the
matter was settled, and it afterward became a statute in Israel that all
who were honorably connected with a military campaign should share the
spoils equally with those who engaged in actual combat.
recovering all the spoil that had been taken from Ziklag, David and his
band had captured extensive flocks and herds belonging to the Amalekites.
These were called "David's spoil;" and upon returning to Ziklag,
he sent from this spoil presents to the elders of his own tribe of Judah.
In this distribution all those were remembered who had befriended him and
his followers in the mountain fastnesses, when he had been forced to flee
from place to place for his life. Their kindness and sympathy, so precious
to the hunted fugitive, were thus gratefully acknowledged.
It was the
third day since David and his warriors returned to Ziklag. As they labored
to restore their ruined homes, they watched with anxious hearts for
tidings of the battle which they
knew must have been fought between Israel
and the Philistines. Suddenly a messenger entered the town, "with his
clothes rent, and earth upon his head." He was at once brought to
David, before whom he bowed with reverence, expressing recognition of him
as a powerful prince, whose favor he desired. David eagerly inquired how
the battle had gone. The fugitive reported Saul's defeat and death, and
the death of Jonathan. But he went beyond a simple statement of facts.
Evidently supposing that David must cherish enmity toward his relentless
persecutor, the stranger hoped to secure honor to himself as the slayer of
the king. With an air of boasting the man went on to relate that during
the battle he found the monarch of Israel wounded, and sore pressed by his
foes, and that at his own request the messenger had slain him. The crown
from his head and the golden bracelets from his arm he had brought to
David. He confidently expected that these tidings would be hailed with
joy, and that a rich reward would be his for the part that he had acted.
"David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the
men that were with him: and they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even,
for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and
for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword."
shock of the fearful tidings past, David's thoughts returned to the
stranger herald, and the crime of which, according to his own statement,
he was guilty. The chief demanded of the young man, "Whence art
thou?" And he answered, "I am the son of a stranger, an
Amalekite. And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch
forth thine hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?" Twice David had had
Saul in his power; but when urged to slay him, he had refused to lift his
hand against him who had been consecrated by the command of God to rule
over Israel. Yet the Amalekite feared not to boast that he had slain the
king of Israel. He had accused himself of a crime worthy of death, and the
penalty was inflicted at once. David said, "Thy blood be upon thy
head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the
at the death of Saul was sincere and deep, evincing the generosity of a
noble nature. He did not exult in the fall of his enemy. The obstacle that
had barred his access to
the throne of Israel was removed, but at this he
did not rejoice. Death had obliterated the remembrance of Saul's distrust
and cruelty, and now nothing in his history was thought of but that which
was noble and kingly. The name of Saul was linked with that of Jonathan,
whose friendship had been so true and so unselfish.
The song in
which David gave utterance to the feelings of his heart became a treasure
to his nation, and to the people of God in all subsequent ages:
glory, O Israel, is slain upon thy high places!
How are the mighty fallen!
Tell it not in Gath,
Publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon;
Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
Ye mountains of Gilboa,
Let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of
For there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away,
The shield of Saul as of one not anointed with oil. . . .
Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives,
And in their death they were not divided;
They were swifter than eagles,
They were stronger than lions.
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
Who clothed you in scarlet delicately,
Who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel.
How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan is slain upon thy high places.
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan:
Very pleasant hast thou been unto me:
Thy love to me was wonderful,
Passing the love of women.
How are the mighty fallen,
And the weapons of war perished!"
Samuel 1:19-27, R.V.